People trust social media more than advertising

In his keynote address at the recent New England Direct Marketing Association conference, Paul Gillin, author of The New Influencers, talked about the impact of social media. One of his key points was that 78% of consumers trust each other more than they trust advertising – which is why they read blogs and go to chat rooms etc.

As social media usage is a dominant activity in society, consumers are using it to share their personal experiences of customer service and purchasing processes. This is among the initial findings of a new Society for New Communications Research study, “Exploring the link between customer care and brand reputation in the age of social media.”

Around 300 consumers who are active internet users participated in a survey focusing on how customer service influences brand reputation as evidenced in social media. Top findings include:

  • 59% of respondents used social media to ‘vent’ about a customer service experience.
  • 72% of respondents researched at least sometimes companies’ customer service policies online prior to purchasing products and services.
  • 84% of respondents considered the quality of customer service at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company.
  • 74% chose companies/brands based on others’ customer service experiences shared online.
  • 84% of respondents considered at least sometimes the quality of customer service in their decision to do business with a company.
  • 81% believed that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice in customer service, but less than 33% believed that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously.

Dell and Amazon were nominated more often than any other company by respondents when asked which types of companies have done the best job in using social media to respond to customer issues.

“This study indicates that there is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies: 25-55 years old, university-educated, earning more than $100,000. They are a very powerful group in terms of buying behavior,” said Dr Ganim Barnes, senior fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

“These most savvy and sought-after consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies to listen, respond, and improve.”

“With consumers increasingly using social media to share feedback on their care experiences, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to ignore or hide from bad experiences,” said Lynda Kate Smith, vice president, Care Business, Nuance Enterprise Division.

“Our mission is to help organizations better support, communicate with, and understand their customers during customer care interactions. As this research highlights, the consumer’s voice is louder and travels further than ever before. One poor customer interaction can have a very significant impact on a public impression of a brand.”

This feedback is a warning signal to the many top executives in large organizations who are increasingly trying to force customers into using their automated call centers more than ever before.

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